Hong Kong Disneyland and the Original, Part 1 IMAGINEERING
Yesterland

A Yesterland reader, Christopher “VeRn” Varney, sent photos of Hong Kong Disneyland to me earlier this year. “VeRn” had an opportunity to visit Hong Kong during his 2007 Westpac deployment on the U.S.S. Nimitz (CVN-68).

Looking at the photos, I was struck by the eerie similarities—and the major differences—between Hong Kong Disneyland and the original Disneyland. I thought it might be fun to run some comparison photos. My thanks to “VeRn” for the Hong Kong photos and to Chris Bales and Allen Huffman for their Anaheim counterparts.

Here’s part 1 of a 2-part article. (Watch for part 2 next week.)

Werner Weiss, Curator of Yesterland, September 12, 2008    

 
entrance sign at Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong: Welcome to the Hong Kong Disneyland Resort
 
entrance sign at Disneyland
The Original: Welcome to the Disneyland Resort

Disneyland Park in Anaheim was the original Magic Kingdom. Today there are five Magic Kingdom-style parks, with Hong Kong Disneyland being the newest.

Here are observations from “VeRn” about Hong Kong Disneyland:

Having been to both Walt Disney World and Disneyland in the United States, I was very curious to see how different it would be to see something like it in a foreign country. I was given this opportunity during my 2007 Deployment. We stopped in Hong Kong and a friend and I jumped at the opportunity to see Hong Kong Disneyland.
I had read many different reviews on-line about the good and bad things about HKDL, but I was looking forward to experiencing them on my own.
The day started out rough, as it was a bit rainy, but we pressed on. We left the ship and jumped aboard a subway train at the nearest stop and rode it all the way to HKDL. Being that the Mass Transit Railway (MTR) is one of the primary means of travel in Hong Kong, it only made sense to have a train station right at Disneyland.
The rainy day reaped its benefits, as the park was not nearly as crowded compared to what would normally be expected.
The first thing you notice as you walk in is the overall size difference. Everything seems to be on a smaller scale. Although there are many similarities, everything just seemed smaller.
One of the other interesting things was how things were actually divided up by what language you spoke. For example, when taking the Jungle Cruise, there are actually three different lines that you get into. There is the Chinese Line, the Mandarin Line, and the English Line. This way, you were placed onto a Jungle Cruise boat with a tour guide that spoke your language.
Unfortunately, what is missing from my pictures are the great shows that we got to see. But just like in the USA, cameras were frowned upon. So although the Lion King show was great, I have no pictures.
The food was very good and surprisingly affordable. I was very impressed and not left hungry.
By about mid-day, we had seen it all. As the rain began to dry up, the crowds began to grow, so ended our adventure to the Smaller of the Greatest Places on Earth.
— Christopher “VeRn” Varney, 2008

 
Main Street Station at Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong: Main Street Station
 
Main Street Station at Disneyland
The Original: Main Street Station

Main Street Station at the original Disneyland sets the tone for the small-town Main Street, U.S.A.

The next three Magic Kingdom-style parks each had a different design for the primary train station. At Magic Kingdom Park in Florida, a larger, more imposing Main Street Station anchors a wider, more ornate Main Street, U.S.A. At Tokyo Disneyland, the park’s Western River Railroad only goes around Adventureland and Westernland, and the only train station is themed to its Adventureland location. At Disneyland Paris, the Victorian-style Main Street Station is relatively modest because the Disneyland Hotel is the landmark at the base of Main Street, U.S.A.

For Hong Kong Disneyland, the Imagineers went back to the original Disneyland design—undoubtedly at the direction of cost-conscious executives.

By the way, the intrusive “Year of a Million Dreams” clouds above the Anaheim turnstile canopies (in the Anaheim photo) are temporary. Eventually, when these clouds are removed, the turn-of-the-century atmosphere of the park entrance will improve.


 
sign on Main Street Station at Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong: Sign on Main Street Station
 
sign on Main Street Station at Disneyland
The Original: Sign on Main Street Station

The sign on Hong Kong Disneyland’s Main Street Station is fancier, while the sign on the original Disneyland’s Main Street Station looks more authentic—more like the signs on actual train stations throughout the United States a hundred years ago.

The sign in Hong Kong shows an elevation of 39 feet. In Anaheim, it’s 138 feet.


 
Town Square at Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong: Town Square
 
Town Square at Disneyland
The Original: Town Square

The camera angles are slightly different, but the similarity between the two photos is striking. Not only is the Main Street Emporium essentially the same in both photos, but so is the other side of the street.

The Main Street Cinema is near the center of both photos. In 1997, the Main Street Cinema at the original Disneyland “grew” an awkward structure above its original, authentic cornice to hide the lights that would be raised each night for Light Magic. If you look closely, you’ll see that the Main Street Cinema at Hong Kong Disneyland has only the original cornice.

Other differences are more obvious: In Hong Kong, the street is paved with red pavers, while in Anaheim the sidewalks are paved with them. There are no streetcar tracks in Hong Kong. There’s no red, white, and blue bunting in Hong Kong. And, most noticeably, the nearby hills of Hong Kong’s Lantau Island rise above Main Street, U.S.A.


 
Sleeping Beauty Castle at Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong: Sleeping Beauty Castle
 
Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland
The Original: Sleeping Beauty Castle

As with Main Street Station and Town Square, the Imagineers went back to the original 1955 Magic Kingdom plans when they designed Sleeping Beauty Castle for the new 2005 Magic Kingdom in Hong Kong. (The two photos were taken with different focal length settings from different spots on Main Street, U.S.A., so you don’t see the storefronts in the lower photo.}

The hills in Hong Kong provide a different backdrop behind Sleeping Beauty Castle than the mature trees at the original park. Some may see the hills as an intrusion by the outside world, but I think they look great—as long as they remain undeveloped.


 
entrance to Adventureland at Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong: Modified entrance to Adventureland
 
entrance to Adventureland at Disneyland
The Original: Entrance to Adventureland

Adventureland at Hong Kong Disneyland has a more prominent role than at the original Disneyland. In Hong Kong, there is no Frontierland. Instead, Adventureland combines aspects of both lands.

Pirates took over Hong Kong’s Adventureland in 2007 from May 4 through June 30—even though there’s no Pirates of the Caribbean ride (unlike at the other four Magic Kingdom-style parks). The extensive Pirate Takeover overlay of Adventureland included decorations, entertainment, and guest interaction with roving pirates. The restaurants offered special menu items, such as Jack’s Treasure Pot and Captain Hook’s Butcher’s Cut. Guests learned how to be pirates at Captain Jack Sparrow’s Pirate Boot Camp. Even Mickey, Goofy, and Pluto got into the act; they posed for photos, clad in pirate costumes.


 
Tarzan’s Treehouse at Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong: Tarzan’s Treehouse
 
Tarzan’s Treehouse at Disneyland
The Original: Tarzan’s Treehouse

The oldest and the newest Magic Kingdom-style park both have Tarzan’s Treehouse, while the other three have the Swiss Family Treehouse.


 
Rivers of Adventure at Hong Kong Disneyland
Hong Kong: Tarzan Island and the Rivers of Adventure
 
Rivers of America at Disneyland
The Original: Tom Sawyer Island and the Rivers of America

As the two photos show, Adventureland at the Hong Kong park has much in common with Frontierland at the original park.

At Hong Kong Disneyland, guests reach Tarzan’s Treehouse by taking a raft to Tarzan Island. The boats of the Jungle River Cruise navigate the Rivers of Adventure that surround the island.

This article will continue next week.


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© 2008-2010 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated November 12, 2018.

Photo of entrance sign at Hong Kong Disneyland: 2007 by Christopher Varney.
Photo of entrance sign at Disneyland: 2008 by Chris Bales.
Photo of Main Street Station at Hong Kong Disneyland: 2007 by Christopher Varney.
Photo of Main Street Station at Disneyland: 2008 by Chris Bales.
Photo of sign on Main Street Station at Hong Kong Disneyland: 2007 by Christopher Varney.
Photo of sign on Main Street Station at Disneyland: 2005 by Allen Huffman.
Photo of Town Square at Hong Kong Disneyland: 2007 by Christopher Varney.
Photo of Town Square at Disneyland: 2008 by Chris Bales.
Photo of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Hong Kong Disneyland: 2007 by Christopher Varney.
Photo of Sleeping Beauty Castle at Disneyland: 2008 by Chris Bales.
Photo of entrance to Adventureland at Hong Kong Disneyland: 2007 by Christopher Varney.
Photo of entrance to Adventureland at Disneyland: 2008 by Chris Bales.
Photo of Tarzan’s Treehouse at Hong Kong Disneyland: 2007 by Christopher Varney.
Photo of Tarzan’s Treehouse at Disneyland: 2005 by Allen Huffman.
Photo of Rivers of Adventure at Hong Kong Disneyland: 2007 by Christopher Varney.
Photo of Rivers of America at Disneyland: 2005 by Allen Huffman.